Hodes defeats Bass, Dems to control House

by Mary Katherine Flanigan | 11/8/06 6:00am

In Tuesday night's election New Hampshire voters turned out in higher than usual numbers to defeat six-term incumbent Charlie Bass '74 (R-N.H), electing Democratic challenger Paul Hodes '72 to the U.S. House of Representatives. Other Republican Dartmouth alumni were defeated as well in New Jersey, Minnesota and Vermont.

Tuesday marked the first time since 1990 that a Democrat has won New Hampshire's second congressional district, which includes Hanover. With 97 percent of precincts reporting district wide, Hodes won 53 percent of the vote and Bass won 46 percent. In Hanover, Hodes received 3,192 votes for 78 percent of the vote, while Bass received only 869 votes for 21 percent of the total.

"It's disappointing that New Hampshire citizens have abandoned their long-standing reputation of carefully and closely scrutinizing the policy stances of candidates," College Republicans President Rahul Sangwan '07 said. "We hoped that voters would look past the attempts to tie Congressman Bass to [President George W. Bush] and see him for what he truly is: an independent man who cares about the people of New Hampshire."

In his concession speech Bass spoke about how privileged he felt to have been able to serve New Hampshire for 12 great years and promised to stay involved in New Hampshire politics. Some commentators have speculated that his ultimate aspiration has always been the governorship and that he will run for office again.

The election's outcome represents a huge victory for the College Democrats.

"We are ecstatic. It is a phenomenal victory; it shows that the country is fed up with the direction that the Republican congress and a Republican president have taken us. The American people have stood up today and voted for new leadership and for a new direction," New Hampshire College Democrats President Adam Patinkin '07 said in between excited shouts to fellow College Democrats.

The College Republicans watch party was a more subdued than the Democrats'.

"The mood was initially hopeful but ended in resignation as we realized Republicans had a small chance of retaining control," said Cynthia Galvez '09, who attended the College Republicans watch party. "It was still good to see so many passionate students gathered and engaged in American politics."

Many saw this election as a referendum on the Republican Party's performance, which has recently been tainted by ethics scandals and an unpopular war in Iraq. Many blame low presidential approval ratings for contributing to a general anti-Republican sentiment. Republican candidates tried to play up their distance from Bush, their commitment to the war on terrorism and improving the economy, but this was not enough as the House of Representatives shifted to Democratic control. At press time, the control of the Senate remained up in the air.

The College Democrats noted that their get-out-the-vote drive was very successful and well received by students despite a shortage of drivers to take students to the polls early in the day. The College Democrats estimated that close to 1,000 Dartmouth students voted, most of whom are thought to have voted Democratic.

Controversy emerged Tuesday over the party identification of the drivers of the Student Assembly-sponsored vans that took students to the polls. Prior to Election Day, the College Republicans and College Democrats agreed that the drivers would be from Student Assembly and would not include drivers who were active in either political organization to minimize the possibility that students would be influenced on their way to the polls.

When the Assembly was unable to provide enough drivers earlier in the day, the College Democrats contacted a list of Dartmouth-approved drivers as well as its membership to encourage students to drive the vans.

The College Republicans, who said they chose not to provide drivers in an effort to preserve the nonpartisan nature of the event, were upset that this get-out-the-vote effort had turned into what they view as a partisan effort on behalf of the College Democrats.

"We were unable to provide drivers on such short notice because our members were committed to other Election Day activities. We were upset that the Democrats broke the nonpartisan understanding when Democratic leaders decided to drive students to the polls themselves yesterday afternoon, despite repeated assurances to the contrary," the College Republicans said in a statement.

But the College Democrats maintain that their participation was necessary in order to transport all students in a timely manner to Richmond Middle School.

"If there was any controversy over the buses it would not be over partisan or non-partisan divers. We stuck to non-partisan drivers as much as we possibly ever could. It was a difficult situation based on the fact that [the Assembly] was unable to come up with enough drivers. When you're scrambling for drivers at the last second we did our very best," Patinkin said.

Patinkin also said that during peak times he transported students to the polls, but he did not drive the Assembly vans and instead used his own car. He said that at no time were students in any vehicle encouraged to vote for one candidate or the other on the way to the polls.

Peter Hutchinson '71, who ran on the Independent party ticket for governor of Minnesota, did not find the same success as Hodes and received only 7.4 percent of the vote.

Thomas Kean Jr. '90 (R-N.J.), who comes from a well-established political family, challenged incumbent Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) for his U.S. Senate seat and lost with 44.6 percent of the vote after a hard fought election.

Democrat Matt Dunne, who was the associate director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy until July 2006, ran for lieutenant governor in Vermont and was defeated by incumbent Brian Dubie (R-V.T.) 46 to 51 percent.

Information regarding the outcome of the race between Hanover Institute member John MacGovern '80, who ran for one of the three Vermont State Senate seats in Windsor county, was unavailable at press time.

On a national level, this election was the best chance Democrats had to take back the House since Republicans took control in 1994. Republicans have also held the Senate during this time except for a brief 19 month period that began in 2001.

To take back control of Congress, Democrats needed to win 15 seats in the House and six in the Senate. Before voting began the Republicans had all but conceded 10 of these seats, while 30 other races were expected to be close. In the Senate three seats fell to the Democrats while four other races were expected to be close. While significant, the Democratic gains in the House fell short of predictions which said Democrats could gain an upwards of 45 seats.

Now that the Democrats have taken control of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will likely become the first woman speaker of the House.